Do you experience tingling, aching or burning in your buttock, hip or down your leg?
If so, you could be experiencing sciatic nerve pain, also known as sciatica. Other possible symptoms of sciatic nerve impairment are weakness and numbness along the nerve pathway of the leg and foot. Sciatica is most commonly caused by compression of one or more nerve roots as they exit the lumbar spine. The sciatic nerve (the thickest nerve in the body – about the thickness of your pinkie) is formed by the joining together of these nerve roots.
Why do spinal nerve roots become compressed?
Injury, a sedentary lifestyle and muscle compensation patterns create stress through the lumbar spine, which can cause abnormal wear-and-tear in the vertebra and intervertebral discs. The discs act as shock absorbers between vertebrae and allow for bending, twisting and movement. At their normal thickness, discs allow for free passage of nerves as they exit the spine. Abnormal wear-and-tear causes discs to degenerate and often results in compression of a sciatic nerve root.
This condition can become chronic when the fascia and muscles of the low back and core are tight and restricted. The chronically tight muscles and fascia hold and keep in place the tension pattern causing compression and force through the spine.
Under this constant tension, the intervertebral discs can begin to bulge or herniate. The vertebra can also begin to remodel their shape according to the forces and strain placed upon them. Bone spurs and narrowing of the nerve canals (spinal stenosis) often results.
Common Diagnoses that Underlie Sciatica Nerve Pain
There are several diagnoses that can be made via x-rays or other scans (here are a few):
- Disc Degeneration/Degenerative Disc Disease – wear-and-tear of the intervertebral discs
- Bulging/Herniated Disc – a disc bulge can appear when the fibrous wall of a disc becomes damaged or is under strain. This bulging out of the disc wall can rub against and irritate a nerve root exiting the spine. When the bulge is significant enough, the fluid centre of the disc (annulus) may push out through the disc wall. This is known as disc herniation.
- Spondylosis – refers to degenerative changes in the spine, including osteoarthritis of the vertebral facet joints and degeneration of one or more intervertebral discs. Disc degeneration often leads to arthritic facet joints due to the increased pressure and wear and tear of these joints.
- Spinal Stenosis – narrowing of canals through which the nerves and nerve roots pass. This is often caused by spondylosis.
- Spondylolisthesis – commonly caused by arthritis of the vertebral facet joints (also known as spondylosis) leading to stress fracture and a slipping forward of the vertebra. This slippage may compress the nerves in the spinal canal or the nerve roots exiting the spine.
How Bowen Therapy may be able to help
With each of the diagnosis above, the aim of Bowen Therapy is the same – to take the pressure and strain off of the intervertebral discs, facet joints and nerve roots by releasing chronically tight core muscles and allowing atrophied or ‘switched off’ postural muscles to re-engage. This allows the spine to lengthen and re-engages the muscular postural support the spine needs.
This is accomplished through a layering approach in which the superficial fascia and muscles are released first, leading progressively to deeper, core muscles over a series of three to six Bowen sessions. This layering approach is important to ensure the body can adapt and transition smoothly into a more resilient and efficient fascia and muscle balance.
Your body will be assessed as a whole, noting system-wide compensation patterns and previous injuries and traumas. Releasing the compensation patterns as a whole will be the primary treatment focus. In our experience this has been found to provide the best results for long-term recovery.
Along with Bowen, other recommendations may be appropriate, e.g. exercises and stretches, reducing stress and dietary changes to provide necessary nutrients for recovery.
What is Bowen Therapy?
Bowen Therapy isa gentle soft tissue therapy that initiates the body’s innate healing capacity. Bowen Therapy consists of a series of precise rolling movements over muscles, fascia, tendons, nerves and ligaments. These moves are light and can be done through clothing. There are frequent and important pauses between each series of moves giving the body time to benefit from each.
It is very common for clients to experience different sensations during a Bowen treatment as the body begins the healing process. Usually these sensations result from the nervous system releasing any charge it may be holding from previous injuries, accidents or illnesses. This release is part of the natural healing and balancing process that occurs during a Bowen Therapy session.
Below is a case study of Bowen Therapy for low back pain, which gives an idea of how Bowen works and how treatments progress
Lower Back Pain and Sciatica – Case Study
A 34 year old woman suffering from lower back pain, sacrum pain and periods of sciatica, resulting from a car accident 3 ½ years earlier, came to me for Bowen Therapy after trying chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage with little relief. She had been to a variety of doctors who had each given her a different diagnosis: piriformis syndrome, sciatica and iliosacral joint dysfunction, but were unable to assist her.
First Bowen Therapy treatment and its results
Based on the results of the initial assessment I performed a whole body balance which included her lower back, upper back, neck and shoulders, as well as specific work for her pelvis. One week later she returned for her second visit and reported that her lower back pain had disappeared for two days following the treatment. When the lower back pain returned it was different - it was a compressed pain in the lower back rather than pain from spasm.
She also reported that the tension and soreness in her neck and shoulders had gone away and not returned. She commented, “It has been a long time since they have felt this way.”
Second Bowen Therapy Treatment
During my client's second Bowen treatment she felt stiffness in her left leg from the hip to knee and knee to ankle after I performed moves over her gluteus maximus muscles. This response prompted me to do further moves to release the gluteal muscles which resulted in a warm radiating pain in her left hip. It is also very common for people to re-experience pain and sensations similar to what they experienced during the initial traumatic event. It seems to be the body’s way of releasing the cellular memory of the accident or injury – the ‘mark’ or imprint of the trauma is cleared and no longer impacts on the person’s health.
Later in the treatment I did further work for her upper back, pelvis and sacrum.
Third Bowen Therapy Treatment
Before the third treatment, two weeks later, my client reported that she hadn’t had any pain or discomfort whatsoever after the second treatment even though she had been on holiday and doing things which usually aggravate her lower back. With that information, my endeavour for the third treatment was to further the work I had already done so that her pain-free state would be long lasting.
I again worked on the lower back, upper back, neck and shoulders, including a couple of moves for the kidneys, which resulted in pain and sensitivity in the left lower back. This pain and sensitivity was an obvious result of the body, through Bowenwork, addressing deeper structural imbalances.
Conclusion – Low Back Pain Case Study
Bowen Therapy was very effective with this client. She now only comes for occational 'maintenance' sessions.
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Online Refrences: The Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus and Wikipedia
Note/Disclaimer: Bowen Therapy and the information provided above are not to be used as a substitute for seeking medical advice for your condition. Please consult your medical practitioner if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned.
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